Help! You’re trapped in a Pinterest loop and can’t get out. You’ve decided to try your hand at interior design—you have a sense of what good design entails, plenty of ideas (and TikTok tutorials), even sleek furniture or art. But before you know it, you’ve fallen down an internet rabbit hole of ideas upon ideas.
This creative spiral explains why people hire a full-service interior design firm to handle the project from start to finish. “There is so much inspiration out there, but people don’t know how to recreate it themselves,” says Athens, Georgia, designer Monica Stewart of The Misfit House, who works with The Expert, an interior decorating platform that offers virtual consultations from 130 designers.
If your project and budget are petite, hiring a full-service designer might not be an option. However, booking a one-time session with a decorator or a home stager for interior design advice can solve a design conundrum, and homeowners and renovators can get personalized expert advice directly from professionals for much less than a full end-to-end project. By-the-hour design gives clients access to busy designers who might be booked out for months on whole house renovations. When you book an in-person, in-store, or video consultation, the design expert gives you tips and a proposal for furnishings and accessories. You might even benefit from their trade discount if they place material, fixture, or fabric orders on your behalf.
“We help people consolidate their ideas into something cohesive, and they walk out with confidence and a game plan,” says Sarah Zames, designer and co-owner of General Assembly design studio and Assembly Line, its new brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn. “We point clients to resources, and they execute the project.” Hourly rates are based on type of service, location, and level of expertise, but tend to start around $50. Here are a few interior design advice services to consider.
Stop into an independent furniture, antique, or home goods store for free and tangible design advice from knowledgeable owners. Some designers may even have a shop, and offer in-store consultations like Zames and co-owner Colin Steif. These design tête-à-tête sessions are ideal for figuring out things like where to hang a mirror or what style coffee table best pairs with a new couch. Zames’s recent client, who had never used an interior designer before, booked an in-store session to get design advice for her new-build and white-box condo. The client prepped with a targeted action list, and the designers recommended light fixtures, paint colors, and an area rug to accommodate ample floor playtime that’s part of the client’s lifestyle.
This type of design help is meant for people looking to update a few spots that don’t justify hiring a firm. Customers may also benefit from trade prices, just as they would if they hired a full-time designer.
Home stagers can be less expensive than a full-service interior decorator, but still offer solid advice, especially when it comes to recommendations on furniture scale, light fixtures, or art placement. “My design clients are usually a young family who has researched decorators, but they’re not affordable,” says Kyra Frankel, designer and stager of Angle Poise Design in Brooklyn. “They have a specific aesthetic and pieces that must stay, so I come up with a design plan that incorporates those with new pieces.” Frankel says her clients are fairly independent. “Some clients just need me to help with rug size and where to place or [to figure out] the right floor finishes.” She provides her clients with a PDF of specific pieces for scale and style—such as a Lucite coffee table for a small living room—with store recommendations for purchasing.
Designers across the country offer virtual hourly sessions on platforms like Modsy, Havenly, and The Expert. These services help create a vision based your space, handle items orders (sometimes with a trade discount), and can even request samples and track delivery. Stewart recently worked with a couple who used The Expert to outfit a gender-neutral nursery in an attic room with a fireplace and old plaster walls. The clients uploaded their ideas and floorplan to the site, and Stewart created an inspiration board that included all the sources, brand names, and colors for her clients to explore. “Even small projects take time, but this way I can [help clients] choose a wallpaper or tile as a jumping off point,” Stewart says.
Whether you’ve got a blank slate or need a paint refresh, a paint consultant can narrow down your choices, help with a color scheme, recommend the best paint finish, and even give you advice on complementary ceiling and trim colors. Their expertise can also help you avoid painting pitfalls like unwelcome effects of light (or lack thereof) on the hue, as well as keep the paint from clashing with existing furnishings and fixtures. “Clients call me to expand on what they want,” says Amy Krane, founder of Amy Krane Color. When she’s faced with a request for a green kitchen, she doesn’t present every verdant hue. Instead, Krane goes through the fan deck, settling on six to 10 maybes. She shares her notes and mails paper samples to clients who then purchase paint on their own.